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Living Upside Down

For Those Who Did Not Report

I had a post planned for this evening, but it has been sidelined after I spent a few minutes reading the #IDidNotReport tweets on Twitter. Reading and thinking about all the women out there who have endured acts of sexual assault and harrassment, but who for a variety of reasons were never able to report what happened to them.

It is confronting to read that so many women never felt they had the option of reporting what happened to them – that they wouldn’t be heard, that they wouldn’t be believed, that it wouldn’t be considered a crime.

Even sadder, the women who didn’t report because they had tried to report in the past and hadn’t been taken seriously. I think that those tweets are the most upsetting. That those women, some only children or teens at the time, were brave enough to speak out and were ignored, laughed at or belittled. Little wonder they were unwilling to risk being vulnerable again.

This isn’t just about women being vulnerable. It is about both genders treating each other with respect and it is about us, as a society, making sure that the victims of sexual crimes, both male and female, are able to feel safe coming forward to report what has happened to them.

I feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of women who haven’t reported what happened to them, but I am not judging them. I don’t judge, because I have my own #IDidNotReport memory and because I understand that sometimes, not reporting is the only way to protect shattered emotions.

I can’t speak for the hundreds of women who have tweeted their #IDidNotReport story. I can only say that I didn’t speak up because I was sure I wouldn’t be believed. For a long time, I found it hard to believe it myself and had almost convinced myself that the act was consensual. But it wasn’t.

It didn’t help that not long after the assault, I was part of a conversation where someone (an older male) stated that they didn’t believe that date rape was really possible. Women who said yes, then no shouldn’t be surprised that men got confused and shouldn’t complain since they were part of the problem. I wish I’d spoken up then. I tried, but I wasn’t brave enough to tell my own story. I argued in general terms and when I was refuted, I stopped trying to argue my point at all.

Years later, I no longer feel like a victim. What happened to me was never reported, but living with it, processing it, being honest about it to myself and to others when the topic has come up, has made me stronger and, I hope, more empathetic to the experiences of others.

I hope #IDidNotReport has raised awareness of not only how many women are assaulted, but why those women feel that they are unable to come forward and report what has happened to them. I also hope and pray that for the many who have been brave enough to step forward and tell their story, however briefly, that they will find release in speaking out and comfort in the support and understanding that is being offered by so many.

If you need to access information or support services related to sexual crimes, this NSW Government Help for Victims of Sexual Assault page has links to support and counseling services as well as information on reporting sexual crimes. For an account of the background to the #IDidNotReport hashtag, read this Sydney Morning Herald article by Sam de Brito.

5 Responses to “For Those Who Did Not Report”

  • Caryn:

    Thank you for sharing, it is an important subject.

  • Sandra:

    There was so much I wanted to say on Twitter tonight and I deleted about six tweets before hitting ‘send’. I got angrier and angrier the more I recounted my experiences.

    From having my breasts groped by a boy who was dared to do so by his slobbering mates in a Year 7 maths class, to being groped between my legs in a crowded London tube (I was 18)… from the family friend, the same age as my father, who propositioned me, and when I said no, my sister (I was 16, she was 14), to my boss who on my first day of work asked me to sleep with him (I was 17) … and all the way up six years ago when the neighbour walked me home from his backyard when I was way too drunk after their barbecue and who took advantage of it. I was so incoherent that I passed out, but my last memory was of him naked and crouching between my knees.

    I moved away from that neighbourhood two weeks later. I’ve never gone back into that street. I left dear friends behind, but I just can’t stand the thought that I might see him. Or his wife.

    I have never reported it. Never said anything until tonight. I didn’t want the grief. I didn’t want to make trouble. I learnt, very early on, to fight the battles I could and walk away wherever possible.

    Most nights, I walk away with a set of keys interlocked between my fingers, ready to gouge out men’s eyes if they come up behind me as I walk to my car. I don’t report that either.

    Susan, thank you.

  • Wow. I missed that whole hashtag… I’m kinda relieved I did, I have to say. I’m a “I reported but I got belittled/it was played down” variety. When I finally worked up the courage to tell someone, I was 18. But it turned out to be too hard, too fracturing, the finger beginning to point towards me for “making trouble” where, apparently according to most everyone else, there was none worth being made.

    For 3 years I endured regular molestation as a pre-teen/young child. Apparently it was up to me to stop it and it had always been up to me to say no…. easier said than done for an obedient 6, 7, 8, 9 year-old. And frankly, I call bullshit on anyone who tries to say, at any age or for any reason, a female calls the shots.

    I think I’ll leave it at that. x Susan, this post is deeply powerful.
    Kirrily @ Sunny Side Up recently posted You know the moments?

  • I’m so sorry that happened to you, Susan. xox

    It has always amazed me just how many women have been the victims of violence at some point. I was sitting at a pub after work one day many, many years ago with a bunch of girls from work. Over half of them had some story of physical abuse in their past relationships. Amazing. I don’t think any of them had reported their partners.

    An important post to write. xox
    Jodie Ansted recently posted More than words

  • Cindy:

    I have really missed the whole hashtag as well ! I need to check this out!

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Susan Whelan - freelance writer, wife, mother, Novocastrian, compulsive reader, user of big words and inadequate housewife. Contact me at susan@whelanflynn.com.

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